Work, Mountain Dew and a chat


When I was a young lad I had a friend named Mark Bowman. I visited his house a few times and he visited mine a time or two. But as often happens, the years passed and even though we graduated from high school together, we each found different paths and were never what you’d call friends after those early grade school years.

In fact, I remember little about those times I spent with Mark, except for two things that for some reason are stuck in my mind.

One time when my mother came to pick me up from the Bowmans she knew we had been outside playing and asked if I had worn my coat. I do not remember what I told her, but I had not been wearing it, so I suppose some kind of guilt is what spurs that memory.

The Bowmans had a large yard and downhill behind it sat the public pool. It must have been spring one year when Mark and I decided to take a stroll down to the pool. By the time we arrived our shoes were caked in mud and for some reason we decided it would be a good idea to climb the fence surrounding the pool. I have no idea why we thought that looked like something we should do. I suppose it was just there and looked liked like a formidable obstacle we could overcome. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to think, hmmm, there’s a very tall fence around this place with lots of locked gates, and maybe there’s a reason for that.

The fence was just there, and we decided to climb it. Of course, once we were inside we had to walk around a bit, even down into the swimming area. When we climbed back over the fence and looked back at where we had been, I clearly remember being able to see our muddy evidence and I think it was then that it struck that what we had done was probably not such a good idea after all.

I don’t remember if I ever told my parents about that adventure, but it has stuck with me for close to 50 years now. I suppose that’s of of those guilt things, too.

In those days I knew Mark’s mom, June, fairly well because she was our school nurse. But I didn’t really know his dad, Dr. Richard Spencer Bowman.

Since we graduated from high school I’ve probably only ran into Mark a time or two, but a few years ago our families’ paths intertwined again.

My father was a sales representative for the Columbus and Southern Power Company (now AEP). Mr. Bowman was vice president of Davon, including the Highland Stone Division, so from time to time Dad would call on one of the Davon divisions and Mr. Bowman, and they developed a bit of a relationship.

Several years later Dad and Mr. Bowman ran into each other somewhere and Mr. Bowman asked if Dad had any grandsons that might be interested in a little work. Dad said that yes, he did, and early in his high school years my oldest son Tye started working here and there for Mr. Bowman.

It was not a regular job, but Mr. Bowman would call when he needed help and Tye would go help him for a few hours. The relationship seemed to work really well, partly because Mr. Bowman paid him handsomely, and partly, I believe, because Tye found Mr. Bowman and his wife kind and interesting.

There was a neat little ritual each time they worked – the job was never finished until Tye and Mr. Bowman sat down to have a Mountain Dew together and a little chat.

Tye eventually moved on to college in Kentucky, but the relationship continued. Sometimes Tye would come home on spring or fall weekends specifically to work for Mr. Bowman, and in the summer they continued their regular routine.

As time passed and Tye was sometimes too busy at college or occupied with a full-time summer job, his younger brother, Chase, would take Tye’s place at Mr. Bowman’s. Tye eventually graduated from college, moved on to Rhode Island and then Illinois, and the job became Chase’s alone not long after he headed off to college.

Chase worked with Mr. Bowman last fall, but hadn’t heard from him since, which was not unusual because the Bowmans usually spent their winters in Florida.

I suppose Chase figured he’d be getting a call from Mr. Bowman before long, probably to help him rid his yard of winter debris. Instead, my wife received a sad call last weekend informing us that Mr. Bowman has passed away at the age of 88.

Despite their age differences, and although I think both my sons found Mr. Bowman’s ways a little different than what they were used to at first, they always talked of him fondly, and I am certain there was a mutual admiration. In other words, they were friends.

By the time we found out about the arrangements, Mr. Bowman’s visitation and funeral were already over. I was disappointed because while my sons would not have been able to make it, my wife and I wanted to pay our respects to Mr. Bowman and his family because of all that they did for our sons over a span of about 10 years. We are sorry we missed that chance, so for now this will have to do: Thank you both for watching over our sons, for giving them a job and paying them more than what was fair, and most of all for being their friends.

I do not really know, Mr. Bowman, what you talked to my sons about each time you sat down with them and had a Mountain Dew after a good day’s work. But I am certain they will remember those talks long after they are old and gray.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

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